live in a world of relations. To live is to be related. The
very act of birth relates us to someone - mother, father,
siblings, relatives, neighbours, language and gender group,
nationality and so on. And as long as we live, we interact
with others based on our relations. Even though death seems
to annul all our relations, we still continue to be referred
to as someone who is related to so-and-so. "Relativity"
thy name, life!
relate ourselves with others at different levels?social, financial,
educational, professional, international, and so on. Whatever
be the form of our relation, we need to have healthy, mature
and meaningful relations and this demands understanding, sacrifice
and right action. Pursuit of meaningfulness in relations has
been, and is, one of the central quests of life and even more
so in present times.
only at the visible, mundane plane, we are ?related? at the
spiritual plane too. It is relation all the way. Swami Vivekananda
defined (1) religions as ?the eternal relation between the
eternal soul and the eternal God?. In other words, religion
is not about a temporary relation between a temporary soul
and a temporary God! It is a relation based on eternal truths
"Types" of Truths
while speaking of "religious books", we refer to
things which are of day-to-day relevance - "what to do,
not to do, when not to do, how to do" and so on - set
of observations, festivals, rituals and such external actions.
Sanskrit it is called achara, conduct and practices peculiar
in certain places, times and situations. It is also called
lokachara, deshachara and kalachara. For instance, among Hindus
it is considered necessary to remove footwear before entering
their temples. Or taking bath and being physically clean in
order to perform worship. While these are necessary and have
a definite role to play, they are not the ultimate truth of
Hinduism - or in some other religion, some other such practice.
These practices may be of little value in another geographically
and culturally different milieu. Religion, however, is not
all about achara; there is another side, a deeper side of
religion, which deals with more profound issues than the external
and rather "adjustable" truths of practice and rituals.
Says Swami Vivekananda, (2)
are two sorts of truth we find in our Shastras, one that
is based upon the eternal nature of man - the one that deals
with the eternal relation of God, soul, and nature; the
other, with local circumstances, environments of the time,
social institutions of the period, and so forth. The first
class of truths is chiefly embodied in our Vedas, our scriptures;
the second in the Smritis, the Puranas, etc. We must remember
that for all periods the Vedas are the final goal and authority,
and if the Puranas differ in any respect from the Vedas,
that part of the Puranas is to be rejected without mercy.
We find, then, that in all these Smritis the teachings are
different. One Smriti says, this is the custom, and this
should be the practice of this age. Another one says, this
is the practice of this age, and so forth. This is the Achara
which should be the custom of the Satya Yuga, and this is
the Achara which should be the custom of the Kali Yuga,
and so forth. Now this is one of the most glorious doctrines
that you have, that eternal truths, being based upon the
nature of man, will never change so long as man lives; they
are for all times, omnipresent, universal virtues. But the
Smritis speak generally of local circumstances, of duties
arising from different environments, and they change in
the course of time. This you have always to remember that
because a little social custom is going to be changed you
are not going to lose your religion, not at all. . .
plain words, we have first to learn the distinction between
the essentials and the nonessentials in everything. The
essentials are eternal, and non-essentials have value only
for a certain time. . .
most important characteristic of these essentials is "the
eternal relation between the eternal soul and eternal God."
What is, first of all, the idea of soul and God that Swamiji
thing, according to Vedanta, about ourselves, the human personality,
is that we are not just bodies and minds but body + mind +
atman. While body and mind are not eternal, the atman is.
What is atman? In his famous lecture given in Lahore in December
1897, Swami Vivekananda expounded the word atman, and how
it is different from body and mind, thus (3):
will not translate this word to you in English, because
the idea does not exist in Europe; it is untranslatable.
The modern attempt of German philosophers is to translate
the word Atman by the word "Self", and until that
word is universally accepted, it is impossible to use it.
So, call it as Self or anything, it is our Atman. This Atman
is the real man behind. It is the Atman that uses the material
mind as its instrument, its Antahkarana, as is the psychological
term for the mind.
the term Atman means that which is eternal (from the Sanskrit
root word att, "that which exists always"). So,
eternal soul means Atman. Is there also noneternal soul? In
a way, yes, and that is called Jiva which is Atman plus body
and mind (so it becomes jivatman). While Atman is never born
or grows or decays and dies, in its embodied state it seems
to undergo change, and the most expressive manifestation of
this change is birth and death. In reality, however, Atman
is the birthless, deathless, eternal core of human personality.
about God? Of course, God and eternity are a synonyms. Never
was God born and never therefore He or She or It (in whichever
way one may describe that Eternal Reality) ever dies. It is,
always. Of course, what is, is not fully known, not even little
known. In fact, we live surrounded by the unknown! God is
infinite, much more than the sense-world that we live in.
this idea of God is not about an inert, inanimate source of
creation! God, according to Vedanta, is of the nature of Existence,
Knowledge and Bliss. Explains Swami Vivekananda ,(4)
eternal peace, arising from perfect freedom, is the highest
concept of religion underlying all the ideas of God in Vedanta
- absolutely free Existence, not bound by anything, no change,
no nature, nothing that can produce a change in Him. . .
God is still, established upon His own majestic changeless
Self. You and I try to be one with Him, but plant ourselves
upon nature, upon the trifles of daily life, on money, on
fame, on human love, and all these changing forms in nature
which make for bondage. When nature shines, upon what depends
the shining? Upon God and not upon the sun, nor the moon,
nor the stars. Wherever anything shines, whether it is the
light in the sun or in our own consciousness, it is He.
He shining, all shines after Him.
further, can be conceived or worshipped as a Being with form
or without form. All contradictions are subsumed in the Ultimate
Truth called God. He, She or It, with and without form, with
and without qualities?all opposites get dissolved in the reality
is eternal and so is God. While this relation is eternal,
one can establish, or reestablish, this relation with God
in various ways such as mother, child, beloved and so on.
All these ways of relating to God are definite methods of
discovering our eternal relation with God. Suppose one thinks
of God as a friend? Of course there are many ways to feel
related to God but let us, for illustration, take up the attitude
of a friend. Swamiji says, (5) . . .God becomes our friend,
the friend who is near, the friend to whom we may freely tell
all the tales of our lives. The innermost secrets of our hearts
we may place before Him with the great assurance of safety
and support. He is the friend whom the devotee accepts as
is viewed here as our playmate. We may well say that we are
all playing in this universe. Just as children play their
games, just as the most glorious kings and emperors play their
own games, so is the Beloved Lord Himself in sport with this
universe. He is perfect; He does not want anything. Why should
He create? Activity is always with us for the fulfilment of
a certain want, and want always presupposes imperfection.
God is perfect; He has no wants. Why should He go on with
this work of an everactive creation? What purpose has He in
view? The stories about God creating this world for some end
or other that we imagine are good as stories, but not otherwise.
It is all really in sport; the universe is His play going
whole universe must after all be a big piece of pleasing fun
to Him. If you are poor, enjoy that as fun; if you are rich,
enjoy the fun of being rich; if dangers come, it is also good
fun; if happiness comes, there is more good fun. The world
is just a playground, and we are here having good fun, having
a game; and God is with us playing all the while, and we are
with Him playing. God is our eternal playmate. How beautifully
He is playing! The play is finished when the cycle comes to
an end. There is rest for a shorter or longer time; again
all come out and play. It is only when you forget that it
is all play and that you are also helping in the play, it
is only then that misery and sorrows come. Then the heart
becomes heavy, then the world weighs upon you with tremendous
power. But as soon as you give up the serious idea of reality
as the characteristic of the changing incidents of the three
minutes of life and know it to be but a stage on which we
are playing, helping Him to play, at once misery ceases for
you. He plays in every atom; He is playing when He is building
up earths, and suns, and moons; He is playing with the human
heart, with animals, with plants. We are His chessmen; He
puts the chessmen on the board and shakes them up. He arranges
us first in one way and then in another, and we are consciously
or unconsciously helping in His play. And, oh, bliss! we are
His playmates! That is religion, realising the eternal relation
between the eternal soul and eternal God. But unlike all other
relations of this world, this relation can never be terminated
by anything. We can never terminate the eternal. God is, soul
is and so too their relation is, eternal.